I recently completed a “speaking tour” of Norwegian Universities on the topic of “international law as applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The sponsors of the tour—a Norwegian pro-Israel group—offered to have me lecture without any charge to the three major universities in Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim. Norwegian universities, especially those outside of Oslo, tend to feel somewhat isolated from the more mainstream academic world, and they generally jump at any opportunity to invite lecturers from leading universities. Thus, when Professor Stephen Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby—a much maligned critique of American support for Israel—came to Norway, he was immediately invited to present a lecture. Likewise, with Ilan Pappe—a strident demonizer of Israel—from Oxford. Many professors from less well-known universities have also been invited to present their anti-Israel perspectives.
My hosts expected, therefore, that their offer to have me present a somewhat different academic perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be eagerly accepted, since I have written half a dozen books on the subject presenting a centrist view in support of the two-state solution and against civilian settlements on the West Bank. Indeed, one of my books is entitled The Case For Peace, and former President Bill Clinton praised my blueprint for peace as “among the best in recent years.” But each of the three universities categorically refused to invite me to give a lecture on that subject. The dean of the law faculty at Bergen University said he would be “honored” to have me present a lecture “on the O.J. Simpson case,” as long as I was willing to promise not to mention Israel. The head of the Trondheim school was more direct:
“Israel and international law is a controversial and inflamed theme, which cannot be regarded as isolated and purely professional. Too much politics is invited in this.”
But is it less “controversial” and “inflamed” when rabidly anti-Israel professors are invited to express their “politics?”
Apparently, a pro-Israel perspective is more controversial, inflamed and political than an anti-Israel perspective—at least at Trondheim. The University of Oslo simply said no without offering an excuse, leading one journalist to wonder whether the Norwegian universities believed that I am “not entirely house-trained.”
Only once before have I been prevented from lecturing at universities in a country. The other country was Apartheid South Africa where the government insisted on “approving” the text of my proposed talks on human rights. I declined.
But despite the refusal of the faculties of Norway’s three major universities to invite me to deliver lectures on Israel and international law, I delivered three lectures to packed auditoriums at each university. It turns out that the students wanted to hear me, despite their professors’ efforts to keep my views from them. Student groups invited me. I came. And I received sustained applause both before and after my talks. Faculty members boycotted my talks and declined even to meet with me. I was recently told that free copies of the Norwegian translation of my book, The Case For Israel, were offered to several university libraries in Norway and that they declined to accept them.
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